What Will Heaven Be Like?
What do you think heaven will be like?
A lot of people have a mental picture of heaven,
Maybe they think of the Emerald City from the Wizard of Oz? Or Disneyland.
In movies it’s usually set up in clouds somewhere,
kind of like a fog bank,
with angels sitting around playing harps.
And people wonder and think sometimes,
"What about animals?"
Every once in a while,
I’ll hear the question,
"What about my dog?" "Will there be dogs in heaven?"
I’ll talk about that later,
because Isaiah mentions that subject.
Or "What about my cat? Will there be cats in heaven?"
(theologians have a serious problem with this question,
they’ve disputed this one for years)
For some people, having cats around would be heaven,
but for others, that would be hell.
Like C.S. Lewis wrote once It’s possible you could have a heaven for mosquitoes and a hell for human beings in the same place.
Just before His death, Jesus spoke to His disciples about this place called heaven.
He left them with these words:
"Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.
Christ has gone before us
to prepare a place for us in heaven.
He wants to make sure we all know,
that if we’re followers of Christ, then we can be sure that
he’s made all the arrangements for us
to come live with him forever.
Now, lets talk about how that will work,
and I have to warn you that at first,
it may seem a little confusing,
because not very many people really teach all that the Bible says about heaven.
But hang with me, be patient, because by the end of today you’ll understand all this.
I want to recommend a book,
for those of you who’d like to do more study,
Randy Alcorn, “Heaven”
Best book ever written on this subject,
apart from the bible.
Some of my ideas today are from this book.
If you liked the Left Behind series of novels,
Jerry Jenkins who wrote those,
says this about Randy Alcorn’s book:
Randy Alcorn’s thorough mind and careful pen have produced a treasury about Heaven that will inform my own writing for years.
With that said,
lets jump in –
There are actually four different heavens discussed in the Bible,
First, there is the atmosphere just above the earth
air, clouds, etc. Second, there is the stellar heaven containing the stars and planets.
Next, we have what the Bible calls “the third heaven.”
And Fourth we have what the Bible calls the New Jerusalem.
Now lets back up a second,
and talk about the third heaven.
2 Cor 12:1-2 NLT
Let me tell about the visions and revelations I received from the Lord. I was caught up into the third heaven fourteen years ago. Whether my body was there or just my spirit, I don’t know; only God knows. But I do know that I was caught up into paradise…
The third Heaven is what we typically think of as heaven,
its where God’s throne is located.
It is also called Paradise, Paul uses both names to make that clear.
does anybody remember,
What did Jesus tell the thief on the cross,
who repented of his sin?
Jesus answered him, "I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise."
Any believer who has already died,
or who dies before the 2nd coming of Christ,
will go straight to the Third Heaven,
straight into God’s presence there.
So if you have a loved one
who was a follower of Christ,
and they’ve died,
they are in Paradise right now.
Now this third heaven also has another name,
one that theologians and bible professors use,
they also call it the intermediate heaven.
Some of you are saying,
Ken, what are you talking about,
how can it be intermediate, that sounds temporary,
but we all know heaven is going to last for eternity.
Well, the truth is, that the third heaven, paradise, or intermediate heaven,
whichever you choose to call it,
is not our final destination where we will spend eternity.
It is temporary,
until the time of Jesus 2nd coming.
I’ll talk in just a minute about the fourth heaven
which is usually called the New Jerusalem,
but first lets talk about this third heaven, or paradise.
2 Corinthians 5:8 says To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.”
We talked about a couple weeks ago,
how when our physical bodies die,
our Soul and Spirit go directly into God’s presence
and we stand before his throne to receive our reward.
This heaven is a real place,
its described in the Bible in real physical terms,
and in fact it’s a lot more real than what we see here around us.
Its not a fogbank of puffy clouds drifting around,
it is real, and solid, and permanent.
The bible says that things on earth are just a copy or shadow of the real things in heaven.
A shadow is not permanent, and the things on earth are a shadow
compared to the solid reality of heaven.
Now lets summarize:
When I die, my soul and spirit
immediately go into God’s presence
to face judgment,
and if I’m a follower of Christ,
I go immediately to Paradise,
or the third heaven Paul talks about.
But I don’t immediately get my new, glorified body.
There will be a period of time
in which I will have to wait for my new body.
You see, the Bible says that one day,
we will receive new, glorified bodies.
These bodies we’ve got now,
weren’t designed to last forever,
so we need new bodies that will.
And I want to assure you,
We are not going to merely be spirits floating around the universe forever. We will have real physical bodies,
that were designed to last forever.
But that doesn’t happen,
we don’t get those new bodies
till the 2nd coming of Christ.
These new bodies are described in 1 Corinthians 15:35
But someone may ask, "How will the dead be raised? What kind of bodies will they have?" 36 What a foolish question! When you put a seed into the ground, it doesn’t grow into a plant unless it dies first. 37 And what you put in the ground is not the plant that will grow, but only a dry little seed of wheat or whatever it is you are planting. 38 Then God gives it a new body — just the kind he wants it to have. 42 Our earthly bodies, which die and decay, will be different when they are resurrected, for they will never die. 43 Our bodies now disappoint us, but when they are raised, they will be full of glory. They are weak now, but when they are raised, they will be full of power.
48 Every human being has an earthly body just like Adam’s, but our heavenly bodies will be just like Christ’s.
51 But let me tell you a wonderful secret God has revealed to us. Not all of us will die, but we will all be transformed. 52 It will happen in a moment, in the blinking of an eye, when the last trumpet is blown. For when the trumpet sounds, the Christians who have died will be raised with transformed bodies. And then we who are living will be transformed so that we will never die. 53 For our perishable earthly bodies must be transformed into heavenly bodies that will never die.
What will those bodies be like?
First, our heavenly or spiritual bodies will be like the resurrection body of Christ..
our heavenly bodies will be just like Christ’s.
After Christ was resurrected,
his body was a little different,
It still looked like a physical human body,
you could see and touch him,
he could eat and drink,
but after his resurrection,
he did some things he’d never done before,
like appearing instantly inside a locked room,
which would be sort of handy if you’ve got teenagers,
Or another time he ascended into heaven on air,
which sounds to me like flying,
so I’m thinking that we’ll be able to fly,
when we get our resurrection bodies
which I think is pretty cool, because I won’t even need a jet.
By the way - Have you ever have a dream about flying?
Like without a plane?
it’s a bird, it’s a plane, its superman – no, its me?
Those are great dreams.
Maybe God is giving us a foretaste of how we’re going to get around in heaven?
And it’s just a given that these new bodies will never age, or grow weak or experience disease or infirmity.
It says they will be glorious and powerful.
Maybe you ask,
What will we look like?
What if someone died as a child, or in old age?
What age will they look like in their glorified body?
The best thinkers on this say we’ll look like
Whatever we would have looked like in the prime of our physical condition,
like 25 or 28,
if we never had any disease,
never hurt ourselves,
and no spare tires around our waist.
So in Paradise,
we are still waiting for our glorified body,
but at the 2nd coming of Christ, we receive it.
Now, what happens next?
How does this 4th heaven,
or New Jerusalem come into the picture?
In Revelation 21, right at the end of the whole bible,
John has a vision of heaven.
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the old heaven and the old earth had disappeared. And the sea was also gone. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven like a beautiful bride prepared for her husband. I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, "Look, the home of God is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. He will remove all of their sorrows, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. For the old world and its evils are gone forever."
The angel who talked to me held in his hand a gold measuring stick to measure the city, its gates, and its wall. When he measured it, he found it was a square, as wide as it was long. In fact, it was in the form of a cube, for its length and width and height were each 1,400 miles. Then he measured the walls and found them to be 216 feet thick (the angel used a standard human measure). The wall was made of jasper, and the city was pure gold, as clear as glass.
This describes the fourth heaven,
or new heaven,
which is called the New Jerusalem.
And there a 3 ways you can interpret
this description of heaven
that John gives us.
First you could say,
well all of this description is symbolic
of what heaven will be like,
but its not going to be an actual physical place,
1400 miles long, and wide, and high,
its all just symbolic.
But then why would God describe it in such detail,
and why would he point out in verse 17 that the angel was using standard human measurements.
It sounds like he really wanted us to know the size,
because it’s the real thing.
The second way to interpret this is that,
the existing earth will disappear,
and this city will be a physical place existing in the heavens,
as the home of God and his people.
Now if this is the case,
the first question you might ask is,
would this city be large enough,
to fit all the followers of Christ?
Well, lets say that there are 2 billion Christians,
throughout all the ages, that end up in heaven.
I think the actual number is far smaller,
but say there are that many.
New Jerusalems length and width and height are each 1,400 miles
A 1400 mile square would be about the size of the US
from Canada to Mexico,
and from the Appalachian mountains to the California border.
For 2 billion people that would be enough so that each person had 27,000 square feet to themselves.
Plus, if the city is 1400 miles high,
then on your 27,000 square feet,
you could build a house that would have 370,000 floors,
even if every ceiling was 20 feet high.
So I’d say that there is definitely room in this city.
Now a third possible interpretation,
of this vision,
and this is the one favored by Randy Alcorn,
is that this city, the new Jerusalem,
will be located on our redeemed,
and completely cleansed planet earth.
I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven…
And he makes the point,
if its coming down,
it has to come down to somewhere,
and he believes that place is a redeemed earth,
which has been cleansed of all pollution,
bloodshed or conflict,
and any other imperfect thing.
Some of Alcorn’s evidence includes scriptures like Isaiah 65
17 "Look! I am creating new heavens and a new earth — so wonderful that no one will even think about the old ones anymore. 18 Be glad; rejoice forever in my creation! And look! I will create Jerusalem as a place of happiness. Her people will be a source of joy. 19 I will rejoice in Jerusalem and delight in my people. And the sound of weeping and crying will be heard no more.
21 In those days, people will live in the houses they build and eat the fruit of their own vineyards.
23 For they are people blessed by the LORD, and their children, too, will be blessed. 24 I will answer them before they even call to me. While they are still talking to me about their needs, I will go ahead and answer their prayers! 25 The wolf and lamb will feed together. The lion will eat straw like the ox. Poisonous snakes will strike no more. In those days, no one will be hurt or destroyed on my holy mountain. I, the LORD, have spoken!"
So Isaiah talks about a new heaven and earth,
and calls it Jerusalem,
where there will be no more weeping and crying,
It certainly sounds like the New Jerusalem in Revelations.
But it also says people will have houses, and vineyards,
and there will be animals around,
probably dogs and cats too, (told you I’d get to that)
though all the animals will live in peace.
So it sounds like Alcorn could be correct,
and that the New Jerusalem could be placed
on a redeemed earth.
Now I want to switch focus,
and lets look at what heaven will be like,
for us personally,
because it doesn’t matter as much
where the location is,
or how big it is,
but what really matters is,
what am I going to be like,
and what am I going to be doing,
The first thing we know, is
1. I WILL BE THOROUGHLY JOYFUL.
The day is coming when you will live in absolute and complete joy,
all the time.
Revelation 21:4 is one of the most beautiful sections of all Scripture: "And He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away."
In heaven there will be no sickness, or sorrow, or suffering. Heaven will be a place of complete happiness.
Its hard for us to even imagine that,
because we’ve never seen it.
Joni Eareckson became a quadriplegic as a result of a diving accident nearly 30 years ago so she’s experienced more than her share of pain and heartache.
She says that “Heaven has become my heart’s home, the place where I will finally belong. The place where I will get a brand new body.” And she adds
Something so glorious is going to happen that it will atone for every single tear we’ve ever cried. God is going to give us the key that will make sense out of what now seems to be such senseless suffering.
There is an enormous amount of seemingly senseless suffering in this world,
As we grow up in this world,
all of us get to a certain age,
and we realize,
Some hurts will never get healed in this life." Some pain will never go away.
some hurts I will probably never be able to forget.
Maybe you’re sitting here with a hurt like that right now.
You can read books on grief.
and join a support group.
You can face life with the best attitude possible,
but still, there is an ache in your heart that just won’t go away.
And it may never go away until the day you die.
So what do we do with that?
One of the most amazing promises in all of the Bible.
was made by Paul
In Romans 8:18: "…the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared to the glory that shall be revealed in us."
Not just the glory that will be revealed to us,
but the glory that will be revealed in us.
You make a list of the worst stuff you’ve seen,
you name it,
and you can say, along with Paul,
"They are not worth comparing to the glory that will be revealed in me."
Paul experienced stuff
that was as bad as it could get.
He was beaten,
and left for dead.
He understood about suffering,
far better than most of us do.
And still he says,
"The glory that is to come is so overwhelming you cant even compare it
to anything we face now.
about a missionary couple,
Henry Morrison and his wife, who served for decades in Africa, then returned to New York to retire. but they had no retirement plan, and their health was poor. and so they were worried and discouraged.
They happened to be on the same ship as President Theodore Roosevelt, who was returning from one of his African hunting expeditions.
When the ship docked in new York, a band was waiting to greet the President. The mayor and other dignitaries were there. The papers were full of news of the President’s arrival.
No one was there for the missionary couple. They left the ship and found a cheap apartment on the East side hoping the next day to find jobs,
so they could make a living in the city.
That night the man said to his wife, You know, something is wrong. We’ve given our lives in service to God in Africa all these years and no one cares a thing about us.
Here this man comes back from a hunting trip and everybody makes a big fuss over him, but nobody gives two hoots about us.”
“I can’t take this, God is not treating us fairly.”
His wife replied, “Why don’t you go talk to God about it?
He went off to pray,
but returned a few minutes later,
and had a smile on his face.
His wife asked him what happened. He said. “I told God how bitter I was that the President
should receive this tremendous homecoming, when no one even met us at the dock.
And when I finished complaining, God said to me ‘But you aren’t home yet.’
Think right now for a moment about your deepest hurt,
your worst loss,
your most difficult relationship,
your deepest disappointment.
When I become a Christian I don’t get a free pass from the sufferings of this world.
I have to live in them,
just like we all do.
And we keep on trusting God our whole lives,
because as believers we know that one day God himself is going to heal every hurt,
and wipe away every tear.
and make everything right.
And you will be a thoroughly joyful person for all of eternity.
The second thing we know is
2. I WILL BE COMPLETELY FULFILLED.
People sometimes wonder,
"What will there be to do in heaven?"
I’d say the number one fear that folks have about heaven,
is that it will be kind of boring.
I used to think that.
I don’t even like harp music.
One of the things that makes us not very excited about going to heaven, is that we wonder,
Is it going to be like an eternal retirement village?
Are we just going to sing all the time?
Because after about 30 or 40 billion years of singing
I might get tired of that.
Like the two guys who were huge baseball fans and their ongoing argument all their lives was,
"Will there be baseball in heaven?"
Because they knew if there wasn’t baseball in heaven,
they would not be happy.
So they made an agreement, that whoever went first,
he’d find some way to let the other one know if there was baseball in heaven.
One of them went first,
and sure enough,
in a time of prayer,
he kind of visited his friend.
His friend said,
"How about it? Is there baseball in heaven?"
And his buddy said,
"Well, I have good news and bad news.
The good news is there is baseball in heaven.
The bad news is you’re pitching Friday."
Is heaven going to be boring?
Look at Rev. 22:5
"And they will reign for ever and ever" Its talking about the people of God,
you and me.
What does that mean, reign? Do we sit around on a throne waiting for something to happen?
No, that’s not what it means.
God created each of us
with special gifts and talents and abilities,
and in heaven he will put us in positions
where we are finally able to use those gifts
exactly as He planned for us to.
Some of us here on earth have jobs and responsibilities we like,
and some of us hate our jobs,
or we’re bored by them.
But in heaven, you will have a position that exactly fits all your gifts and talents,
so that you are the one person
perfectly suited to do that job.
One writer says that you will be
In ceaseless, creative activity with Jesus and his friends.
So that Jesus will say,
Ken, or Mary, or Bill, what do you think we ought to do?
And you will answer with creative wisdom and insight,
because this is what you were gifted to do,
and Jesus will say,
That’s a great idea,
why don’t you go do that.
Jesus says in Matt 25:23
that the day is coming,
when the Father will say to us
’Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’
In charge of many things.
You will be given great responsibilities in heaven.
Responsibilities so great that compared to them,
whatever you’re doing now is just a few things.
John Ortberg writes about heaven
that there will be intellectual challenges to wrap our minds around,
There will be adventures that require greatness of spirit.
There be tasks that need strength of will and character to be done.
Author Dallas Willard puts it like this: "You will know fullness of function; the unending creativity involved in a cosmos-wide,
cooperative pursuit of a created order that continuously approaches,
but never reaches,
the limitless, goodness, and greatness
of the triune personality of God."
Now he writes like a professor,
so you probably didn’t understand any of that,
I don’t think I did,
but it sounds really good,
And that’s what we’re going to be doing.
You’re going to grow in knowledge,
and continually develop your gifts and skills.
and unleash the abilities that God has given to you.
and you’ll be working with passion
because heaven is not a retirement village.
It’s the start of your real job.
And there won’t be anything you would rather do,
then the work you get to do in heaven.
You will be completely fulfilled.
Here’s number three: 3. YOU WILL BE MORALLY FLAWLESS.
How many of you have even one bad habit you’d like to change?
How many of you don’t have any,
but the person next to you has got a whopper?
Here’s what Jesus says,
This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light, because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.
What does it mean, people love darkness,
and hate the light.
It means that people prefer to hide who they really are,
and what they’ve done in secret.
Every person is like that,
from the 3 year old who raids the cookie jar,
then hides the cookie behind his back,
to the 16 year old
who gossips about her friend behind her back,
to the 50 year old who doesn’t want anyone to know what he’s looked at on the internet.
We all prefer to keep certain things in the dark.
I understand about that.
I understand about wanting to hide because there are parts of who I am that I’d really prefer not to show the whole world.
There are times in the last month,
when I’ve reacted in anger to my kids,
and I’d just as soon not have a video of that playing up here on the big screen for all of you to see.
A few weeks ago I’d had a really stressful day,
and I was at home in the evening,
At your house to you have about 9 remotes lying around
for tv, vcr, dvd, stereo, etc.?
and I notice there are several remotes have their backs off,
and the batteries are missing,
and I know exactly what’s happened to those batteries,
because I’ve told my teenagers a million times,
not to steal batteries out of the remotes,
to put in their portable CD players, when their batteries run out,
but I might as well save my breath,
because there’s all the remotes with batteries gone,
lying all over the floor,
and I lost my temper, and started throwing remotes up in the air.
Now if we were able to show a video of that right now,
you would probably it was really funny,
but I wouldn’t enjoy it.
I’d prefer to hide that side of my life.
I remember thinking many years ago that by the time I hit this age,
I’d be pretty much together.
By the time you’re almost 50, you should be pretty holy, right?
Unfortunately, the older I get,
the more I realize how much still needs to be changed,
But you know what?
The day is coming when there will be no more darkness.
Revelation 21:23: "And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God is its light, and its lamp is the Lamb."
There will be no darkness there,
no living in darkness.
No hiding anything,
because we will have nothing to hide.
Your character will be perfect.
"I’m making everything new," "and that includes you."
Can you imagine that?
Nothing to hide?
You will have a new heart,
and a new mind,
and the only thoughts that will pass through your new mind,
will be those that are noble and good.
You’ll even have a new mouth,
that isn’t tempted to deceive,
There’s no night there,
nothing to hide.
You Will Be Morally Flawless.
The fourth thing we know about heaven,
4. YOU WILL BE ABSOLUTELY CONTENT.
In this world,
we have so many desires,
but our desires are frustrated.
but our dreams go unfulfilled.
We think if we could just have more we would be content.
then we get more,
but it’s never enough.
And our lives become this crazy chase after contentment.
I heard someone ask,
Who’s more content,
the man with 8 children or the man with a million dollars?
The man with 8 children because he doesn’t want anymore.
Our lives are a constant battle for contentment.
And we continually think that having a little more would somehow bring enough,
to satisfy us,
So we want more money,
But it’s never enough.
Some of you here today,
are deeply discontent in some area of your life,
and you’re tempted to try to satisfy a desire right now in a way that is not honoring to God.
But then you find that satisfying that desire,
just brings more emptiness.
And of course,
you’re willing to do anything to try to fill up that emptiness — shopping or eating or overworking
anything to fill the emptiness — but we are never content.
The truth is,
Following Christ means you’re going to have to say no to some appetites right now.
And some of you need to do that.
Some of you need to decide right now,
"There’s some appetites that I want to gratify; some desires that I want to fulfill,
but it would be dishonoring to God,
and he won’t bless that desire,
and so I’ll say no.
Why should you do that?
Because the day is coming when you will be absolutely satisfied.
Revelation 21:6 is the promise of God,
"To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life."
Do you know what thirst is?
It is unfulfilled desire.
I am going to satisfy every desire you have,
every desire you’ve ever even thought about,
it will all be satisfied.
There will be no such thing as loneliness,
or any other desire that is unfulfilled.
Every thirst will be satisfied.
On this earth, you will never be content,
because this is not your real home,
but God says, one day,
You will be absolutely content.
What a destiny, we have:
You will be a thoroughly joyful,
completely fulfilled morally flawless,
You will be
co-ruler of the universe dwelling continually with God.
What an amazing future we have.
John is real clear about one other thing: Not all human beings will end up in that city.
There are those who choose to stay outside and who will spend eternity without God.
And so I hope,
that each of you here
will do everything you can,
to help everyone you know to spend eternity living with God.
I want to close with these words.
Some of you have read the Chronicles of Narnia The first book is coming out as a movie in December.
At the end of the very last book,
C.S. Lewis is trying to describe how the characters all go to heaven But he doesn’t actually use the word heaven,
This is what he writes.
"The things that began to happen after that, were so great and beautiful that I cannot write them. And for us, this is the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that they all live happily ever after. But for them it was only the beginning of the real story.
"All their life in this world had only been the cover and the title page.
And now, at last, they were beginning chapter one of the great story which no one on earth has read, which goes on forever, in which every chapter is better than the one before."
Let’s stand for prayer.